As part of The Coca-Cola Company’s efforts to expand its portfolio of low- and no-calorie sparkling soft drinks, Coca-Cola Zero was reimagined—and Coca-Cola Zero Sugar™ created. First launched in Great Britain in July 2016, followed by 13 other Western European markets, Coca-Cola Zero Sugar has experienced tremendous retail value growth across the region since its introduction.
The success of Coca-Cola Zero Sugar’s introduction in Western Europe in less than 12 months is attributed to Jasmin Vinculado, Coca-ColaTM Marketing Director, Coca-Cola Western Europe, who led the team. Vinculado and the team confidently charged into country after country with the new product, learning from and perfecting deployments along the way. Their thoughtful and flexible approach clinched the team a Coca-Cola Global Innovation Award.
“Borrowing from General Colin Powell, we often hear the saying if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This is the favorite slogan of those who are complacent, arrogant and scared,” shared Vinculado. “In this time when we have to challenge ourselves in terms of needing to grow the business we actually have to think if it ain’t broke maybe it’s worth an upgrade.”
An upgrade – or a new name, new look and improved real Coca-Cola taste – was greatly welcomed by Western European consumers, with an estimated 3.8 million new households enjoying the beverage. In Belgium, Coca-Cola Zero Sugar has been noted as the most successful Coca-Cola launch in 10 years. And, in Great Britain the no-sugar product is the fastest growing non-alcoholic ready-to-drink beverage.
Jasmin explained, “Coca-Cola Zero Sugar’s success has been about more than a change in taste; it has also been about a change in the ways of working. From a cultural perspective we’re trying to learn as a company that we don’t have to be perfect when we launch, but headed in the right direction. And we more often need to ask why not than why.”
Traditionally, a typical Coca-Cola product, from decision to launch, takes 52 weeks. The Coca-Cola Zero Sugar launch took 22 weeks. While pre-launch testing of the product presented positively in Great Britain, research wasn’t indicating sweeping wins across all Western Europe markets. But good news seemed to be traveling fast via social media, with pleased consumers posting photos holding the new beverage. Considering early product success and social media reaction, the Coca-Cola Western Europe team thought Coca-Cola Zero Sugar could work across their business unit. And they were right.
“Great Britain really gave us a learnings domino effect to learn, adapt, and launch. We celebrated best practices from each market, while ensuring to convert learnings into immediate improvements, including modifying product positioning for local audiences,” said Jasmin. “Social media helped us implement almost real-time responses, giving an entrepreneurial spirit edge to our actions. If a certain communication wasn’t resonating, we adjusted.”
Jasmin pointed out that a growth strategy requires more than one success, especially as consumers are interested in more, not fewer, options with less sugar but the same great taste.
Jasmin finds inspiration from Apple iPhone’s several iterations. “You know, I thought the first iPhone was fine, but here we are 17 models later, with improvements we may not have imagined. Technology companies strive to continuously improve their products. This is a mindset well-suited for other industries, including ours.”
Coca-Cola Zero Sugar launched in the United States July 2017 and is available in more than 25 markets around the world.